Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Mark Twain, Darwin, and the French

I have been studying the traits and dispositions of the "lower animals" (so-called), and contrasting them with the traits and dispositions of man. I find the result humiliating to me. For it obliges me to renounce my allegiance to the Darwinian theory of the Ascent of Man from the Lower Animals; since it now seems plain to me that that theory ought to be vacated in favor of a new and truer one, this new and truer one to be named the Descent of Man from the Higher Animals...

And so I find that we have descended and degenerated, from some far ancestor -- some microscopic atom wandering at its pleasure between the mighty horizons of a drop of water perchance -- insect by insect, animal by animal, reptile by reptile, down the long highway of smirchless innocence, till we have reached the bottom stage of development -- namable as the Human Being. Below us -- nothing. Nothing but the Frenchman.

There is only one possible stage below the Moral Sense; that is the Immoral Sense. The Frenchman has it. Man is but little lower than the angels. This definitely locates him. He is between the angels and the French.
Mark Twain, Man's Place in the Animal World (a.k.a. The Lowest Animal) (1896)

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